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MPEG-2 is an extension of the MPEG-1 international standard for digital compression of audio and video signals. MPEG-1 was designed to code progressively scanned video at bit rates up to about 1.5 Mbit/s for applications such as CD-I (compact disc interactive). MPEG-2 is directed at broadcast formats at higher data rates; it provides extra algorithmic 'tools' for efficiently coding interlaced video, supports a wide range of bit rates and provides for multichannel surround sound coding. This tutorial paper introduces the principles used for compressing video according to the MPEG-2 standard, outlines the general structure of a video coder and decoder, and describes the subsets ('profiles') of the toolkit and the sets of constraints on parameter values ('levels') defined to date.